Speech by Minister Dara Murphy to Haringey Irish Cultural and Community Centre, London 13 June, 2016


Check against delivery.

Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here with you in Haringey and I really appreciate the warm welcome I have received here this evening. I’d like to thank Owen Sloman especially, and I am delighted to share the platform here this evening with the Rt Hon David Lammy and of course Ambassador Dan Mulhall.
Most of you present here this evening are members of the Irish community here in North London. You are a very important part of our small nation and the lives you have built for yourselves here in London and around the world extend our reach to a global Irish family of up to 70 million!
It is a source of great pride that successive Irish Governments have been able to provide support to the great work done by the organisations based here at the Centre in Haringey and the many other organisations in the UK and around the globe through the Emigrant Support Programme. My colleague Minister Joe McHugh has recently been appointed as the new Minister for Diaspora Affairs – a sign of the Government’s ongoing commitment to the Irish Abroad.
But you are not only members of the Irish diaspora – you are a vital part of society here in England. I know you are all incredibly proud of your Irish heritage and I am sure you are, quite rightly, equally proud of the contribution you have made here in Britain.
EU Referendum
I would like to take this opportunity to speak about the Irish Government’s position on the upcoming referendum on 23 June here in the UK - a referendum that will ask the people of Britain to vote on whether or not the UK should remain as part of the European Union.
First and foremost I fully respect that this referendum will be decided by the people of the United Kingdom. However, the Irish community living here are one of just three groups outside of British citizens, entitled to vote in this once-in-a-generation referendum and it is important that you are aware and informed of Ireland’s unique position, and the implications that this vote will have on Ireland, before you make up your mind and cast your vote.
Ireland and the EU/ Value of the EU/ Value of UK membership
As Minister for European Affairs I have seen first-hand how EU membership has been central to the transformation of Ireland’s economy and society over the past forty years.
As a small, open economy, we gain huge advantages from our membership. And we also benefit from working with like-minded democracies which share our values and interests.
The EU has allowed us all to redefine what Europe is about. For too long, our continent was divided by war and conflict. The EU has played a crucially important role in redefining our Europe, to mean peace and stability - the foundations of prosperity for our citizens.
Can the EU do better? Undoubtedly. Do aspects of how the EU does business need to be improved? Yes, absolutely. But the best place to do that is around the negotiation table. And we want a British voice to continue to be part of those discussions.
I've been privileged to represent Ireland at many Ministerial meetings at EU level. I know there is a strong sense throughout Europe that – although the UK, like Ireland, was not a founding Member State – its history and that of the EU are inextricably linked, not least in a shared commitment to rebuild a continent ravaged by World Wars. Every other country wants the UK to stay in.
Examples of concrete benefits of EU membership
The EU brings real value to everyday life too. As Irish eyes turn to France tonight this seems like an excellent opportunity to reflect on the tangible benefits of European cooperation.
Every football fan travelling to France from Ireland – or the UK for that matter –gains from EU membership:
• They enjoy ease of travel to a fellow Member State;
• In the event of an excessive travel delay, European legislation provides them with significant levels of protection and compensation;
• And – while we hope it won’t be the case – if they have a medical emergency, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives immediate access to the French public health service
• And if the tournament were taking place outside the EU - as the next two World Cups will be – if they got into difficulties, they could benefit from the consular assistance of other Member States
Of course, were the Euros to be taking place in 12 months’ time, fans would also be benefitting from the abolition of roaming charges to phone home – but that will come in handy for the qualifying matches for World Cup 2018 and the 2020 Euros.
All in all, the ease with which so many dedicated fans can travel from across Europe to France this summer provides a perfect example of how the EU can deliver practically and effectively for its citizens.
This ease of movement is most critical between our two islands where we have enjoyed such inter-connectivity for so many years. Indeed the Dublin – London air route is the second busiest in the world!
Today – thanks to EU competition rules – and it was an Irishman, Peter Sutherland, who was behind that - it’s far cheaper and easier for us all to travel. This is particularly important here where our lives are so intertwined, be it travel for business, pleasure or to maintain our family connections.
And then we have our trade links and the jobs they’ve created. Did you know that trade between Ireland and the UK is €1.2 billion per week? Yes I did say per week! This level of business between us sustains a total of 400,000 jobs - 200,000 jobs in Ireland, 200,000 jobs in the UK. It is done seamlessly, tariff-free and is vital to both of our economies.
Successive economic studies show that the impact on Ireland would be proportionately greater than on other EU Member States.
Most credible economic assessments conclude that in a ‘Leave’ scenario the UK economy could decline by between 1% and 5%. According to the professional research the government had done in Ireland, in turn every 1% decrease in the UK economy could result in a decrease of 0.3% in the Irish economy, which in turn could affect jobs.
We are important to the UK too – Ireland is the UK’s fifth biggest market. The UK exports more to Ireland than China and India combined. 37% of Northern Ireland’s exports are to south of the border. We are economically joined at the hip.
We are concerned that any change to our current relationship could negatively affect this business, and anything that negatively affects business can potentially hurt jobs.
Although there has been much talk about different ways for the UK to work outside of the EU, we believe that each of the alternatives would hurt - not improve - trade flows. They would build in extra bureaucracy - not reduce red tape. They would raise costs for the companies that support the 400,000 workers - not grow jobs.
Northern Ireland/ British Irish Relations
Also, the outcome of that referendum will matter a lot to us back at home in Ireland and in particular to the work to secure peace in Northern Ireland. And to the great relations Britain and Ireland have worked so hard to achieve.
We’ve all seen in the last few years that the relationship between our two islands has never been stronger. 43 years ago we joined the European Community together – how different things were between us back then.
But when Queen Elizabeth II visited Ireland for the first time in 2011, I think we all felt the enormous significance of the occasion. The respect Her Majesty showed at the Garden of Remembrance, in honour of our fallen heroes, and her gracious cúpla focail in Dublin Castle marked the beginning of a new era in British Irish relations.
The State Visit here in 2014 by President Higgins assured that this change in the relationship between our islands was now one of friendship, neighbourly partnership and equals, and the Céiliuradh concert in the Royal Albert Hall, which some of you may have been at, was a fitting celebration of this.
In so many ways, Ireland and the UK being in the EU together has put us on the same footing. We are equals in our work in the EU and the close working relationship I spoke of earlier can be clearly seen in the development of the Peace Process in Northern Ireland.
The trust and partnership that has been built up around the negotiating tables in Brussels has enabled great strides to be taken over the years, culminating in the Good Friday Agreement which has been transformative in Northern Ireland.
The EU supported those first steps for peace in the 1980's with financial support for peace and reconciliation efforts and has given billions of pounds in support for schools and colleges, farmers, community groups, roads, job centres and so many other projects that help people’s lives. In fact in the current round of funding Northern Ireland will receive a total of €3 billion in the six years up to 2020.
It is very unclear what would happen to the border between North and South in the event that the UK left the EU. Only last week at an event here in London, former President Mary McAleese spoke of her concerns about this and how the free-flow of people and goods, in both directions, that we enjoy today might be jeopardised in any way.
The reality is that there is uncertainty as to whether or not a border would be re-instated if Britain decides to leave the EU. However, as the only land border between the EU and the UK it would be difficult to see a situation without some form of control and it is the clear view of the Irish Government that any move in that direction is unwelcome and a backward step.
I know too that immigration is a key issue in this debate here in Britain.
As a community that came here, worked hard, re-built the infrastructure after the devastation of war, nursed the sick, and educated the children - the value of hard-working immigrant communities that can often be the lifeline of an economy this resonates with us Irish.
Research shows that in general, EU migrants contribute considerably more than they receive. Many are well-educated, working in skilled employment, with many also working in the hospitality sector, manufacturing and construction. So you can see, migrants from the rest of the European Union, like the Irish over the years, are often the backbone of the services on which the population and society depends.
So, as I said at the outset, this is a matter for the electorate for this referendum - including you here today - who are entitled to a say in this matter, to decide in the end. But I wanted this chance to set out our unique position and the concerns that we have.
So, in closing, I have three final messages.
First and foremost, we want the UK to remain a part of a strong EU and work with us to make it better.
Second, Ireland will remain a committed member of the EU, regardless of the outcome of the UK referendum.
Third, we will preserve the strength of the British-Irish relationship that has been carefully fostered over the years, even if the UK votes to leave the EU. The people of Northern Ireland would expect nothing less.
I hope that you might think about, not only your own lives here in Britain, but the impact that this will have on everyone back home in Ireland, and on the future of British-Irish relations when you cast your vote next week.
I would like to thank Owen for the invitation and all of you here for the warm welcome and the opportunity to share with you the Irish Government’s view on this referendum. Our perspective is unique and I hope that what I’ve had to say helps you with your decision.